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Criminal Resource Manual

1944. 18 U.S.C. 1542 -- False Statement In Application For Passport And Use Of A Passport Fraudulently Obtained

Section 1542 of Title 18 proscribes both false statements made to obtain a passport, and use of any passport so obtained.

The false statement against which this section is most commonly used is the use of a false name in obtaining a passport. United States citizens attempt to obtain passports using false names in order to conceal criminal activity. A problem of proof can arise when the passport applicant has routinely used aliases and now seeks to obtain a passport in one of those aliases. See, e.g., United States v. O'Bryant, 775 F.2d 1528 (11th Cir.1985); United States v. Cox, 593 F.2d 46 (6th Cir.1979); United States v. Wasman, 641 F.2d 326 (5th Cir.1981), aff'd, 464 U.S. 932 (1984).

Browder v. United States, 312 U.S. 335 (1941), is the leading case on use of a passport, the application for which contained a false statement. Browder obtained a passport in his real name, but in the portion of the application asking when his last passport was obtained, he falsely stated, "none." This statement was false because he had previously obtained a passport in a false name. He then used the new passport to enter the United States. The Supreme Court upheld Browder's conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1542 for innocent use of a passport secured by a false statement. See 53 A.L.R.Fed. 507.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) amended this statute to provide for enhanced penalties if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism or a drug trafficking crime.

[cited in USAM 9-73.600]